Showing posts with label rape. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rape. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2017

[Review] Caraval (#1) - Stephanie Garber: Magical Games and Insensitivity

In CARAVAL, sisters Scarlett and Tella finally receive an invitation to a mysterious game.

What intrigued me: Pretty much the hype.

Lacks in World Building

CARAVAL is one of those books that charm you with flowery writing and hide the fact that there isn't really much else interesting going on. The biggest weakness is the world building. Hardly anything gets explained and the reader has very little time to get acquainted with settings, concepts, and unique elements before the sisters embark on their journey to attend Caraval. 

I assumed this would be a magical-realist read like THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which it has been so famously compared to, but CARAVAL is nothing like that. The story would've been so much better off had it been told in a Contemporary setting in my opinion. The High Fantasy world is hastily built, which lots of made-up names for existing things and for some reason half of it is in Spanish. No clue what that's all about. The setting itself is a very meager attempt to distract the reader from the fact that hardly anything in this book makes sense, the plot twists come out of nowhere and are incomprehensible, and there are also a handful of Deux Ex Machina situations.


Suicide as a Plot Device 

I was surprised to see that it's pretty much a reproduction of L.J. Smith's THE FORBIDDEN GAME series, which is one of my favorite series of all time. CARAVAL tries to hide that with a High Fantasy setting, but the comparisons are simply uncanny: Both feature a love interest named Julian and a mysterious and dangerous game that the protagonist must win to save their loved ones. Where THE FORBIDDEN GAME amazes with atmospheric truly dark and dangerous setting and characters, CARAVAL strikes me a little as PG-13. It's such a strange reading experience, because the writing is very juvenile at parts and then you have scenes involving heavy physical abuse, emotional manipulation, rape, and suicide. 

There is one scene that still renders me speechless and makes me feel sick thinking about it - at some point a character commits suicide as part of the game, only to be later resurrected with magic. I find it extremely inappropriate to use this as a plot device and for the shock value, and worse when it turns out that the character planned for this to happen all along. It's disgusting, really, and just the proverbial cherry on top of this very problematic cake. You'll find that most of the scenes involving abuse and rape are plot devices. The sisters have a very abusive father who's just there for conflict, which I can still forgive, but then there are also scenes where the love interest forces himself physically on Scarlett. He violates her consent by asking her to reconsider and/or straight up ignoring it when she says no. This is never addressed and just horrifying. I would've given this book a solid three star rating without all the problematic content, because I can still recognize that this is a book that may not be for me, but might delight other readers. But like this, I'm simply horrified and shocked and would advise you to be very careful should you plan on reading this.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CARAVAL is the disappointment of the year. Lush prose can't really hide that the concept and world building are mediocre at best. This book is a prime example why we need trigger warnings in mainstream YA, a lot of the very mature themes are used as plot devices. The suicide one hit me the worst, I can't believe they'd put this in a book for teens.

Trigger warning: rape, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, slut-shaming, violence, kidnapping


Additional Info

Published: January 31st 2017
Pages: 407
Publisher: Flatiron
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781250095251

Synopsis:
"Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read CARAVAL?

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Recommendation: Wrecked - Maria Padian: Sexual Assault in College





In WRECKED, Jenny gets sexually assaulted at a party, but the people around her are too preoccupied with their own lives to get what's going on.

What intrigued me: I usually don't go for novels with themes like these, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone.

Smart and Compelling

WRECKED is an incredibly unique read. It's written in multiple perspectives from people who in some way are connected to Jenny and the rape. Padian cleverly gives all of them their own struggles, their own little problems that make it easy to ignore what's happening outside of that. 

Each storyline is compelling in its own: Haley, who gets benched in her soccer team after a live-threatening concussion; and Richard, who just got dumped by Carrie whom he desperately wants to win back. I was invested in their struggles and it's such a smart way to illustrate what happens in real life as well. People are just preoccupied with their own lives. So smart, such a fantastic metaphor.

WRECKED is essentially a guessing game, even though it seems obvious at first, you'll constantly feel insecure in your perception of what actually happened. It's definitely one of those books that you have to read multiple times to fully get the whole picture.

Literary and Character-Driven

The writing is also extraordinary and another reason why I'm very sure WRECKED will go on to win a couple literary awards in the future. It's very literary, very much character-driven with a very strange, unique narrative voice in each POV. The narration flip flops back and forth between past and present and uses flashbacks to give background information. Normally, this wouldn't work. For Padian it does. I have no idea how. 

Exactly this contributes to the icky feeling I had while reading. There are constantly new thing revealed about the people involved and you never know what to think or whom to trust. I grew especially invested in Richard's storyline, the boy that's so blinded by his love for his ex-girlfriend that he doesn't realize it's an obsession. It's weird to be on the other side of a situation that I'm sure many girls out there have experienced - dating the boy who just doesn't take no for an answer. 

The story in itself is just so compelling and it's absolute word magic to convey this serious topic in such a subtle way, yet make it so obvious that the reader knows what happened from page five on. Just fantastic.


Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WRECKED is a very important book that should be compulsory reading at every school. An absolute recommendation if you don't mind YA that's on the literary side.



Additional Info

Published: October 4th 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Algonquin
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781616206246

Synopsis:
"Everyone has heard a different version of what happened that night at MacCallum College. Haley was already in bed when her roommate, Jenny, arrived home shell-shocked from the wild Conundrum House party. Richard heard his housemate Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with. When Jenny formally accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard find themselves pushed onto opposite sides of the school’s investigation. But conflicting interests fueling conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible--especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict."
(Source: Goodreads)


Can you recommend any good books about sexual assault?

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

[Review] Just Listen - Sarah Dessen

In "Just Listen" by Sarah Dessen, Annabel Greene gets excluded from her group of friends. There's a secret that she desperately wants to keep from everybody, even if that means that she's going to have to shut off all her friends and family.


Excessive Use of Flashbacks: Yay or Nay?

I couldn't quite get into this one. Dessen has a way of writing that I'm not very fond of. She uses a lot of flashbacks to establish her characters and familiarize the reader with them. At times I got lost in those flashbacks and didn't even know anymore what the present tense storyline is about. When you've got so much background story information dump, it's very easy to lose motivation. I had rather have her add the character development to the present stroyline instead of rambling on and on about past events. I get that it's necessary and I think that the information is absolutely vital to the plot, but still, come on, no flashbacks!

Essentially because Dessen's writing is centered around Annabel's family in the beginning, her sisters Whitney and Kirsten, instead of around her, I kind of forgot who the main character was. It felt like the protagonist was Whitney with her eating disorder instead of Annabel. Another thing that bugged me intensly is how broken her family is. Everybody has issues, everybody has some kind of mental illness and a dramatic backstory explaining it. It's just too much. You can't do it all justice in one novel if you mash things together and hardly even deal with them. (Writing 2/5)

Teenagers Don't Act Like This

What bugged me intensely is how grown-up the main characters Owen and Annabel are acting. Teenagers that age are moody, irreponsible and don't care much about anything besides themselves. It's not a cliche, if you know people that age, you know it's true. You might want to argue: Not all of them are like this- but making the two main characters be so ridiculously compassionate, understanding and grown-up just made me shake my head. Annabel's family is falling apart and she is too, yet she's so selflessly doing everything to make everyone happy. There are no rash decisions, no teenage tantrums, nothing. The only times teenagers in the novel act up is due to some kind of mental issue or due to being the antagonists.

Especially with Owen I straight up had the feeling that Dessen was talking through him like a puppet. He sounds nothing like a teenage boy. Having obscure interests is one thing, but making him this sort of super precocious and at the same time wiser than his years kind of guy doesn't make him attractive as a love interest, it just makes me roll my eyes. The majority of people twice his age I know aren't as grown-up as him and it's just not a flattering personality trait if you want your audience to like him. In general I think the novel would have worked so, so, so, so much better with twenty-something main characters instead of pretentious sixteen year olds.

Still, I can't deny that Dessen's characters are well thought out. You can clearly see that she put thought into building them, but it's just over the top to me. I couldn't really like anyone in the novel and if you don't empathize with the characters, it's hard to have fun reading. It took me forever to finish this novel for that exact reason. (Characters 3/5)

The Story is Going Nowhere

While we do have these insanely planned.out characters with their dramatic backstories, there is no clear plot line. There's no way to tell what exactly this novel is about. First there's a bunch of flashbacks, then it flips back to the past and then we go back to flashbacks again. You feel like a ping-pong ball reading this. If you've paid attention at least a bit, you can tell from page three on that this is a novel about rape. It's absolutely clear what happened that led to Annabel and Sophie not being friends anymore and the evolving friendship between Owen and Annabel is just extremely boring and unrealistic. (Plot 2/5)


Rating:

★★☆☆

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

I'm disappointed with Sarah Dessen's writing. It's the first novel of hers that I've read and it's certainly going to be the last. I had to force myself to continue reading and absolutely didn't enjoy it at all. The characters are well thought out and the writing is alright, I have to acknowledge that, but it's just not an interesting read. I almost fell asleep reading this.


Synopsis:
"Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" — at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store.

This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.

Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.
"

German Cover, dtv

 

Additional Info:


Original Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Published: April 6th 2006 
Pages: 383
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Cover:  Viking Books for Young Readers, 2006
Genre: YA / General
ISBN: 9780670061051







Recommended for Fans of:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Have you read books by Sarah Dessen? 

How did you like this one?

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